What to expect in a traffic commissioner public inquiry

If you’re called to a public inquiry it can be daunting, there are rules and procedures that can be confusing and intimidating, the consequences of attending an inquiry without specialist advice can be serious.

We’re here to help with our latest blog and guide you through the process.

What is a public inquiry?

It’s a formal hearing held by the traffic commissioner rather than a judge or bench of magistrates, they are to determine licence applications, reviews of operating centres and those held for regulatory reasons.

There are usually three reasons that Public Inquiries are held:

– To consider an application for a new Operator’s Licence or a variation to an existing Operator’s Licence where there are concerns that the Operator may not satisfy all the statutory requirements to hold a licence;

– To consider an application for a new Operator’s Licence or a variation to an existing Operator’s Licence where there are possible environmental issues;

– To consider any shortcomings of an existing Operator and to determine whether regulatory action is required.

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Before the inquiry

Sometimes, you may get a visit to your premises where you may be formally interviewed under caution where there are thought to be serious issues.

In cases involving environmental issues, the process is often started by objectors or representors raising objections to the Traffic Commissioner about the application or variation to the licence. The Operator will be informed by letter and have a chance to respond to the issues raised.

All Public Inquiries ultimately begin formally with a “calling up” letter which is sent to the Operator and any other people required to attend (for example the Transport Manager). The letter will set out the date, time and location of the hearing and the issues which are to be considered.

After the public inquiry

The Traffic Commissioner usually makes his/her decision at the Inquiry. Sometimes, they will reserve their decision pending the production of further information or simply choose to put their decision in writing rather than to announce their decision at the Inquiry.

The Traffic Commissioner will always write a letter confirming the outcome of the hearing. The level of detail of this letter will depend on whether the Operator/Transport Manager/Driver is represented. There is often complex law involved in the decision-making process and any findings made by the Traffic Commissioner will refer to legislation which a Transport Lawyer can explain to you.

Frequently, the Traffic Commissioner will take a less harsh course of regulatory action in return for the Operator formally promising to take certain action (known as an undertaking). It is very important that any undertakings made to the Traffic Commissioner are complied with on time, otherwise it is likely that the Operator may have to appear at another Public Inquiry on that basis alone. Obviously, a Traffic Commissioner will take a much more firm view with Operators called to Public Inquiry on more than one occasion or as a result of a failure to comply with undertakings.

Can you represent yourself?

You can decide to represent yourself or ask someone to represent you, such as a lawyer. Our qualified team would be more than happy to chat about your public inquiry and how we could help represent you.

We hope the above has given you a guide to the ins-and-outs of public inquiry, for a full ‘Guide to Public Inquiries’ from the UK Government visit the website below: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/545045/guide-to-public-inquiries.pdf